The battle of the boob

What's wrong with a controversial Atlantic Monthly article about breast-feeding? Plenty, say the editors of a new anthology.

Topics: Broadsheet, Motherhood,

The battle of the boob

Ed. note: Hanna Rosin’s recent Atlantic Monthly article,The Case Against Breast Feeding,” created quite the controversy by questioning the health benefits of breast milk as well as the prevailing wisdom that Breast is Best. Broadsheet asked the editors of an upcoming anthology about breast-feeding, “Unbuttoned,” to respond to the piece.

When we read Hanna Rosin’s feature, she amused us with her interesting and witty observations. But we were also left wondering what her true objective was. Did she intend to knock breast milk’s “liquid gold” status off its throne? Did she want to assuage guilt about her personal conflicts surrounding breast-feeding? Did she hope to make women think twice before judging one another for the parenting choices we all make every day?

We agree with Rosin that misconceptions surround breast-feeding. (That’s why we spent 18 months working on “Unbuttoned.”) For too long, a lot of the attention has focused on the women who have successful breast-feeding experiences. Maybe it’s because some “winners” feel entitled to bragging rights. While “losers” (read: The ones who, thanks to societal pressures, have been made to feel as though they’ve failed) quietly recede, egos and breasts deflated, and (egads) go off to formula feed their children.

But where Rosin falls short is citing the “evidence” against breast milk’s role in preventing or reducing the risk of a host of illnesses in children, including ear infections, asthma, obesity and SIDS. She backs her claims up by a handful of medical studies from reputable journals, university researchers and other sources she refers to as highly regarded. She also tries to build a solid argument against the breast-feeding hype and hysteria that she believes has taken hold of U.S. women and breast-feeding advocates.



But the problem with the piece is that, on closer inspection, we have to conclude that her reporting is biased. She cherry-picked research that suited her agenda, the research suggesting that breast milk isn’t really all it’s been hyped to be. Yet between us we have interviewed dozens of highly regarded researchers and pediatricians who could offer a point-counterpoint to the research Rosin highlighted.

We also take issue with Rosin’s suggestion that the decision to breast-feed drives women out of the workforce. Our experience couldn’t be more different: We have friends and colleagues who hold positions of “serious power.” They are doctors, lawyers, sales executives, television producers, writers and government lobbyists, and they all breast-fed for as little and as long as they wanted to — with careers intact.

Rosin’s damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t take on breast-feeding is a letdown. She, like so many other women, has every right to feel irritated, even pissed off, about the societal pressures to Do The Right Thing and breast-feed. But like it or not, there’s a lot of convincing evidence in support of breast-feeding. And like it or not, there are many really good reasons to breas-tfeed that have nothing at all to do with science. We’d argue that the same could be said of formula feeding.

As with most things in life, what ultimately works for one may not work at all for another. But at the very least we should remind ourselves of the common denominator here: As mothers, we’re all in uncharted waters and doing the best we can to stay afloat. 

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>